Critics pan city's 'inadequate' environment budget

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Bid to dedicate staff to city's GHG reduction strategy fails

After three hours of debate and a close vote on reallocating money for two staff members dedicated to the city's greenhouse gas reduction plan, the environment committee approved its portion of the the 2018 draft budget without change Tuesday.

A number of public delegations addressed the committee Tuesday morning and accused the city of underfunding its own environmental priorities.

"This budget is inadequate," said Janice Ashworth of the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce's sustainability committee.

Over the past four years, the city has only spent $1 million on energy efficiency instead of the planned $2 million, for example. And its aggressive plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 80 per cent below 2012 levels by 2050 — a plan that falls under the city's own "energy evolution" strategy — is woefully behind schedule.​

"What we see with the 2018 budget is that it continues a trend of under-investment on this specific initiative," Robb Barnes of Ecology Ottawa told the committee. 

33 projects unfunded

The city's greenhouse gas reduction strategy includes a list of 33 projects that aren't being funded, he said; things like energy efficiency projects "that would yield not only tangible benefits from a climate lens," but also save the city money in reduced energy costs in the long term.

Ecology Ottawa was looking for $1.5 million in new money for energy evolution projects, but pointed out there's only $500,000 in new funding for grants for environmental programs.

The budget renews both $1 million in "energy management investing" for upgrading city buildings, and $500,000 for greening the city's fleet, but advocates don't consider either of these funds as additional money. ​

Committee approves water bill increases, but challenged on green-energy program

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Councils environment committee approved increases to water bills in 2018. The revenue pays for maintenance of the water and sewer system. CANWEST NEWS SERVICES

Jon Willing, Ottawa Citizen

Proposed increases to water and sewer bills received the environment committee’s endorsement on Tuesday, but councillors spent several hours considering the funding of new green schemes as part of the city’s draft 2018 budget.

Public delegates zeroed in on the city’s Energy Evolution program and asked councillors to increase funding for the first phase.

As part of the program, a $500,000 “community energy innovation fund” would be launched in 2018 as part of the city’s goal to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 80 per cent below 2012 levels by 2050. The money would be slotted into the tax-supported budget as a grant program, with the possibility of adding surplus Hydro Ottawa dividends.

Environmental groups, like Ecology Ottawa, want to see $1.5 million spent on Energy Evolution next year, arguing $500,000 won’t do much to reduce GHGs.

“We feel the city is moving too slowly and too gingerly. More has to be done now,” said Bill Eggertson, a member of the city’s environmental stewardship advisory committee.

Coun. David Chernushenko, who has pushed energy conservation and GHG reductions as environment committee chair, is resigned with the money the city is coughing up for Energy Evolution.

“You fight your fights and push. You take your wins where you get them,” Chernushenko said. “I would like more. This is as far as I could get at this time. I have chosen to support what I could get, as opposed to saying, ‘It’s inadequate, I’m voting against it.’”

Chernushenko said politicians and voters are sensitive to how far government pushes the green envelope, even if they talk up a big green game.

“I don’t believe the majority of council or even the city population understands just how urgent and existential the changes that are going to be required are,” Chernushenko said.

City plan for more electric car charging stations could cost you

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People in Ottawa could soon be paying more to charge their electric vehicles at city-run charging stations. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Proposal likely to mean price differences between stations across city

By Kimberley Molina, CBC News

The city's plan to build more charging stations could make it more expensive for people to charge their electric vehicles.

The City of Ottawa wants to start charging people to charge cars at stations installed after December 2017.

Currently, the city operates three free charging stations at John G. Mlacak Community Centre, City Hall and the Glebe Parking Garage. It also operates a pay station at the Goulbourn Recreation Complex.

There are also many more privately operated stations and some installed through a provincial program, all with varying rates.

"In a sense, there's a bit of a hodgepodge until now of different unpredictable availability, free, not free, different rates," said Coun. David Chernuskenko, chair of the Environment and Climate Protection Committee. But that hodgepodge will likely continue.

The proposal being presented at Tuesday's Environment and Climate Protection Committee would see the city build more charging stations, but with different rates than what it currently charges.

Variable prices have some concerned

The variable pricing will be tied to the 'level' of charge your vehicle takes. So called Level 1 stations, at 120 volts, are currently free and will remain free.

Level 2 stations, which operate at 240 volts, will have a $3.50 flat fee at future Park and Ride parking lots and $2.00 per hour at other city sites. The third level of charge is the DC Fast Charger station. The city would charge 28 cents per minute at these stations, which connect directly to the car's battery and essentially super charge it in as little as 30 minutes.

Students win $5,000 at first Innovation Jam

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Photo by Meagan Casalino

Manuela Barcenas, The Charlatan

A group of nine students won $5,000 after pitching their “Complete Compost” idea at Ottawa’s first sustainability challenge Innovation Jam, held at Carleton on Nov. 9.

The event was organized by Student Energy Carleton (SEC), the first Ontario chapter of an international organization that aims to develop sustainable energy alternatives to fossil fuels and foster innovation among university students.

According to Roberto Chavez, SEC president, the idea of an Innovation Jam originated from an executive trip to Mexico to attend the Student Energy Summit in June.

“We saw an Innovation Jam, and we thought ‘this is the coolest thing, this is what we are about.’ So we thought that the best way to start our year was to have one of these events where students can learn actively by taking action,” Chavez said.

Eleven groups pitched their ideas in front of a panel of five experts in the fields of sustainability and environmental protection. Cameron Wales, Carly Parks, Kokeb Solomon, Jackie Bastianon, Kaylin Paquette, Julia Sterling, Natalie York, Jeff Thorslund, and David Hodgson made up the winning “Complete Compost” team.

“The goal is a cheap, accessible, purpose built green bin that will contain smells and prevent pests. If a pilot project at Carleton is successful, we want to see this city-wide,” Wales, a fourth-year student in public administration and policy management, said.

Wales’ team got a $5,000 sponsorship from the Social Planning Council of Ottawa to develop their idea, as well as the opportunity to present their plan to the City of Ottawa Environment and Climate Protection Committee.

“A lot of game-changing, society-changing ideas started on campuses, and whether it’s something that we hear that will lead to a major change, or just getting people thinking this way that will lead to a career or research further down the road, getting people thinking is good,” said David Chernushenko, the Committee Chair and city councillor, who gave the opening remarks at the event.